Black Cotton was founded by Julius Tillery, a fifth-generation farmer in Eastern North Carolina, in 2016. He cultivates raw cotton for the purpose of art and decor.
Located in Northampton County, North Carolina
What problem is the company looking to solve?
Black Cotton wants to raise awareness for Black farmers in the cotton industry. Cotton, says Tillery, is such an important crop, and he wants himself and other Black cotton farmers to feel proud of the work being done in their industry instead of being looked down upon. It is important to Tillery that customers know where their product is coming from and that they know the generational story behind it.
What are the company’s most concerning challenges? How will they address these challenges?
The biggest challenges that Black Cotton has faced has been with shipment costs to the West Coast. As a company that sells in over 40 states, Black Cotton has high demand across the country, but shipping from Eastern North Carolina can be costly. To fix this, Tillery is planning on expanding operations to add a shipment center somewhere in the Mountain Time Zone. This will help the company in reducing shipping costs and becoming more accessible to consumers. “As a small business,” says Tillery, “it’s hard to continue to make good profit margins if you don’t understand the logistics of the product you are shipping nationwide”. Tillery will use this understanding to continue the expansion of his business nationwide.
How does the company expect to scale in the next year? In 5 years?
Black Cotton is hoping in the next few years to move from home decor into textiles. They’ll start with yarn, and eventually move into clothing. Black Cotton is also hoping to establish a new shipping center on the West Coast in the next few years to expand its accessibility.
Describe the company’s approach to the Triple Bottom Line.
Black Cotton is determined to reduce its environmental impact by shipping only in the United States in order to reduce pollution. They also strive to be economically sustainable by investing their profits into the local North Carolina community and ensuring that their workers are paid a fair, living wage.
Who currently makes up the company’s team? What gaps, if any, need to be filled?
The team is made up of Tillery and four other workers: two almost full-time workers and two half-time workers.